This is my account of the international conference of the World Association of Sign Language Interpreters at the Descartes University in Paris devoted to “Honoring the Past, Treasuring the Present, Shaping the Future”.
Honoring our Past is title of the keynote by Liisa Kauppinen and Bill Moody. Bill and Liisa met at the WFD 1987, the first time IS was offered as a conference language. Bill honours the Coda Church Interpreter who inspired him as a 14-year old teenager in Texas to pick up sign language. Liisa espresses her thankfulness for being able to negotiate on the highes political levels in iS to all IS interpreters and interpreters in general. At the same time she stresses the importance of national sign languages. Bill concedes that IS is not a language and therefore the content delivered would not be adequately complete, however the communication enabled via IS has taken us were we are. Liisa is tirelessly explaining, pointing to the UNCRPD, to non-signers who initially do not understand the necessity of national sign languages and desire a universal language, comparing the needs of Deaf peoples with those of blind person whose accommodation is indeed universal, namely braille. She calls for the recognition of indigenous sign languages as well. Bill remembers once he went to French-speaking Congo, Zaire, around 1992, and noticed that although French is the dominant spoken language, ASL is the signed one. Bill thanks Liisa and all other Deaf persons for their gift of language and their relentlessness and energy to fight their way to the top levels of international politics. Liisa relates episodes of dissent when working with other nations delegations at the UNCRPD and how she has been able to diplomatically change their minds to endorse it. Bill points out that she has been able to do so because she approaches people personally and enters in to a mindful dialogue. For the future developments on IS interpreting he foresees that we will have to specialise in particular areas, with reference to Nigel Howards work as an example. Both agree that we have to work hand-in-hand: Professionals and honorary workers of many social and political sectors, not just Deaf persons and interpreters, have been working together successfully to improve the quality of political interaction and the achivements of Deaf rights.
Interpreting for physiotherapy: A classroom-based perspective. The presenter accept it as a given that Deaf patients fall through the health system. One of the reasons is the quality of the work of interpreters. Roberts and Bucksey (2007) argued that communication between health care practitioner and patient is vital component of healthcare interaction. A positive rapport improves patient knowledge and understanding, patient adherence to treatment, leading to greater patient satisfaction, better outcomes and greater effectiveness of physiotherapy. Rapport is the communication part of the establishment of a relationship. By getting all intentions of the interlocutors across, not just the information itself, the interpreters allow the interlocutors to establish the kind of relationship they intend to establish. Further, the interpreter develops his or her own positive rapport towards the interlocutors in order to not disturb the relationship-building that is going on in the setting. This means that the way how information is exchanged is interpreted, keeping up the interpreters own relationship with everyone involved. However, inexperienced interpreters have a tendency to prioritise blunt information exchange. There is a gap in interpreter education, Mason and Waddell claim. According to their findings, interpreter education issues are: Students have no access to realistic situation. Most focus on work with doctors. However working with other practitioners such as dentists, optometrists or physiotherapists. For IE it is crucial to learn about a wide variety of settings. Rachel Mapson and Yvonne Waddall from Queens Margaret University focus on teaching interpreting in physiotherapy. They learned to all more questions than usual, get familiar with people speaking from different directions and the importance of a rapport between the interlocutors. Challenges were “how to interpret perceptions of pain, to understand the goal of the interaction and understanding how language choices might impact on diagnosis and treatment”. For the classroom it means a “careful selection fo deaf actors,”, that you have to “allow time for discussion”, that “group and individual feedback” offer benefits, and that you should “embed activity within programmes”. Learning is effective in real-life scenarios. I asked to regard Sebnem Bahadir’s Interpreting Enactments as an addition to their program.
Exploring interpreted professional discourse through Team-Talk and Tool-Talk: Perceptions on representation in interpreted professional settings by Emmy Kauling. How is professional communication between deaf and hearing experts interpreted? Speaking like a professional is a strong part of what makes a professional. The deaf professional only comes across in the way, the interpreter displays them. Kaulings research question is: “How do participants of interpreted events in the workplace perceive the distribution of responsibilities for professional discourses?” She conducted interviews with Deaf professionals, their hearing colleagues and not designated SLI. The first surprise about the findings was that the Deaf professionals thought there was a lot of professional jargon on occasions when the hearing professionals did not realise it at all and the SLI saw a little bit of it. For the SLI, while the sign language register remains the same in both directions, the spoken register would change without the deaf professional knowing (SLI call it cultural mediation). The Deaf professionals, however, don’t know what they are missing and would like to know the professional spoken English matching his utterance in SL. They expressly want to learn this language but in the end, the conversations about this between the Deaf professional and the interpreting team hardly ever happen. How does this translate into the responsibilities of the stakeholders? Kauling defined 2 categories: Team-Talk and Tool-Talk. Team Talk seems to be key: The interpreters thrive with talking about their work with their team partners. The hearing professionals view the SLI as part of the team like everyone else. The Deaf professional does not consider if SLI are part of the team or not, however he or she knows that the colleagues do not confuse the interpreter with him or herself. SLI do not consider themselves as parts of the team but they reflect on this idea. The already common Pas de Trois (Cecilia Wadensjö, Cynthia Roy) is extended by Kauling by involving the entire team and their respective collaborations. This is Tool-Talk: perceiving the interpreter as a Tool. The hearing say, just ignroe the SLI (conduit). SLI make the first step of talking about issues and think of themselves as a vehicle to their Deaf customers “awesomeness”. Deaf professionals talk about “my” interpreter. It is rather like Cirque du Soleil’s jump rope number and their meticulously synchronised jumping within each others circling ropes. During the interpreted event, you can not tell apart who is responsible for what. In the Q&A, Christian Rathmann commented on the presenters use of “client” for interpreters’ Deaf “people they work with”.
Interpreting academic lecture through multi-lingual, multi-modal code-switching: A case study. Lori Whynot. She is looking at a Deaf exchange student’s studying in a country where his or her national sign language is not used. The languages switched between are ASL and Auslan. The interpreters used multiple signs and expansions, depiction and sign, fingerspelling. The students said that it helps when the interpreters use his or her own signs and depictions. They asked for clarification. They provided their preferred signs. This means more stress for the students because they have to prepare themselves and the interpreters, too. The interpreter strategies are relying more on teamwork and on input from the student, for example. They fingerspelled a lot and depicted more. There were interpreters who had a hard time incorporating the provided non-ASL-Auslan vocabulary into their output. Effective strategies are: “Preparation, consistent teams, adjust and accommodate to ‘reduce linguistic dissimilarities’ (Giles 1991) and negotiate to fit preferences. Negotiate key concepts etc. What do we call what we are doing? This is an open question. Let us increase the triple-lingual and multilingual language capacities. Q&A: Christian Rathmann comments that there is also intralinguistic inconsistency when the interpreting team partners change as yet another challenge on the student. How can we avoid it?
Raising critical awareness of sign language interpreters as collaborators in healthcare. Rachel McKee, George Major. In New Zealand interpreter services for Deaf people are available since 1990s however accessibility is not guaranteed everywhere as to remoteness of location, especially in emergencies. 2 projects: Collection of 40 Deaf Health Stories from all over New Zealand (Major 2018) and NZSL Users Access to Healthcare (Mitko et al 2017), study at hospitals in NZ. Barriers found: 1. “Confusion and lack of information” when it comes to booking interpreters, resulting in no interpreters booked. Example: A woman takes her step mom to her midwife in order to tell her that she wants interpreters and how to book them. The interpreting is flawed, the midwife argues that the step mother would be good enough and no interpreter was booked. 2. “Staff perspectives on deaf people” are “often pathological” Example: Deaf mother has an appointment for her sons eye problems and the doctors are asking her “how they could help with her deafness”. 3. “Health literacy gaps.” Example: Deaf diabetes patient had no idea what diabetes is and that diabetes was running in his family because he did not overhear the hearing families’ conversations. 4. “Deaf people report poor communication match with interpreters” (“The way I sign is not the way the interpreters signs”). 5. “Interpreting alone is not always enough to guarantee accessibility” .Example: Deaf patient who repeatedly did not understand what the doctor meant asked for a picture to refer to during interpreted interaction. Suggestions: Collaboration between Deaf persons and healthcare providers facilitated collaboratively by research team and community members: 1. “Deaf awareness workshops for Health Professionals, 2. Health literacy workshops for Deaf – with Deaf-friendly HPs and interpreters, 3. Interpreting practice workshop – (language diverse) Deaf, HPs, interpreters, relay interpreters, 4. Lab review of recorded role-plays – interpreters. 5. Produce health information in NZSL, accessible online – health provider”.
Shaping Our Academic Future. Cynthia Roy, Jeremy Brunson and Christopher Stone are making a case for a transdisciplinary practice on interpreting studies involving history, translation, linguistics, sociology, social psychology and cognitive psychology. Here is their new book.
Anne Leahy asks: “What legal developments created the sign language interpreter role specifically in the US and GB?,” looking for the roots of legal sign language interpreting. Legal Authority in the year 1285 means a minor may sue by Prochein Amy, “the next friend”. This was applied to deaf persons later. They were allowed to have someone with them as a guardian in legal proceedings. In the Church Law 1624. If the couple to be married does not speak they were allowed a gesture, meaning the same thing as if words were spoken. The words to be spoken were uttered by a 3rd person. 1720, the first sworn interpreter accompanied a Deaf witness in a successful communicative undertaking, and this was written down. The next one 1786, a woman interpreting for her brother. This was also successful and lead to a rule in court allowing deaf people to testify (?). 1811, USA: Deaf person is caught stealing and pleas guilty by the help of an interpreter. Leah stresses that all this happened before there was deaf education. However Deaf history usually starts with Deaf pedagogy. Documentation of legal interpreting, however, exists long before Deaf schools. Why is this important? We need to know who we are by knowing our history. This matters because there was a time that the law that once needed us and constituted our principles of linguistic adequacy, lack of bias etc. forgot us and handed us over to the sign language pedagogues. However, these initially acquired principles are still running in our blood.
The second day’s keynote is presented by Marianne Rossi Stumpf and Ronice Müller de Quadros from Universidade Federal des Santa Catarina, titled Sign language translators and interpreters: shaping the future. Of the 29 professors at the Libras Department of their University, 18 are Deaf and 11 bilingual hearing. Their research autonomy granted by law thrives with a strong network of well-educated SL scholars, nationally and internationally. They are expanding the field. Libras studies is on par with other Language studies in Brazil. After their 10th year, they are re-designing their curriculum. There is a need to learn from the Deaf community what is missing about the translators and interpreters they have been training. Their points were: “trust, ethics, empathy, belonging, collaboration”. The interpreters were not to be “more professional” but they were to have “more humanity”. Among the list of ways to get there, they note”translation competence” and “signing in the presence of deaf people”, ” respect for cultures and diversity”. Regarding the profession, they are highlighting the difference between SLI and interpreters/translators of other language pairs since we are working with Deaf people all the time and they require our work all the time. The new curriculum, in consequence, aims at this: “The education process has the challenge to build a strong relationship between deaf people and their interpreters, requiring a presence of Deaf professionals participating in tis educational process.” The presenters are going on about the research they have created during the past 10 years in various fields. I want to point out one very important achievement: There is a phd-thesis in Libras on video, the video is about 8 hours, that was formally accepted as a thesis. It is available online here. November 9-13, 2020 there will be a conference at UFSC Florianopolis “VII Reseasrch National Conference of Sign Language Translation and Interpretation Research. http://www.congressofils.com.br/
Christopher Tester is looking at how Deaf interpreters are viewed in the court room. He is using the intralingual translation concept by Korning Zethsen (2009). His work is based on interviews with DI, he has not seen them working in the setting and is gathering information on what they say they have been doing. Although the intralingual framework does apply, he already sees that it is not sufficient in order to describe what DI are doing. Clearly, English is involved in the ASL that is the target language of their hearing colleagues, for example. Therefore, intralingual aspects are involved and translanguaging happens. Clearly, there are cultural aspects involved and clearly, there are aspects of motivation the sheer presence of a DI and in addition his or her performance triggers. This is Tester’s phd-work in progress and it is already obvious that it will make a very important contribution to our field.
Octavian Bloom, Naomi Sheneman and Jon Henner ask: “What kind of Audism is performed by interpreters?” in their talk Toxic ableism among signed language interpreters: Impeding Deaf people’s linguistic rights through pathological posturing. The first key term the preserntes are introducing are Abled Resistance when responding to the challenges formulated by Deaf persons. Interpreters have “expectations of gratitude . . . from the oppressed community” because they think that “access is a moral obligation” or a “charity”. Access this way is “framed as a privilege, not a right” for example in the attitude “you are lucky to have interpreters”. Interpreters refuse “to commit to best practices for access”, like not using sing language in Deaf space, meetings and conferences, in education. The root for such behaviour lies in “phonocentrism/lingiucism and the lac of humanities in interpreter education”. Another issue is “contested authority and expertise” in their reactions to feedback about their work and in their resistance to Deaf interpreters. The presenters are very heartbroken about the “disbelief/minimalisation among sign language interpreters of our experiences and knowledge about our access needs.” The Ally model is not an appropriate since it derives from WW2 as allied partners in warring countries. It carries the unacceptable connotation that the Deaf Community as an imagined community (nation) is an enemy of the country they are living in. Among the suggestions entering on reframing out institutions according to above-mentioned flaws, the presenters demand us to “recognise the epistemic authority and ontological reality of deaf people”.
Anna-Lena Nilsson is taking a historical approach to the accessibility provided by IS interpreting: From Gestuno Interpreters to International Sign Interpreters: Improved accessibility? Nilsson is recounting the way interpreters for the WFD have been given access to prep material, and have been treated in general like having to pay for their own drinking water. As for now, she is noting a focus on IS interpreting, with a focus on the service for IS interpreters. This means that IS interpreting is not seen as an emergency solution but given preference compared to national languages. Fewer events offer NSLI and the focus is on using one version of IS. The EUD is still commenting on the situation as not “the perfect solution”. Research indicates that IS presentations are not “very well understood”. Nilsson is asking us to consider cost-effectiveness with regard to the amount of accessibility provided by the use of IS. She concludes that the use of IS may provide accessibility for certain people and we need to discuss the implications of this. She pleas to argue for the use of NSL in the face of institutions that found our interpreting costs. She is asking this very important question: “Where do we go from here?” Q&A: Simone Sholl thanks the presenter profusely, applauded by the audience and comments that we should be weary of producing first class and second class interpreters and language users. She demands a statement by WASLI and WFD on the importance of NSLs. Liisa Kauppinen simply asked to respect IS as well as NSL.
The closing panel was dedicated to the new accreditation in IS interpreting. Christoper Tester, Bill Moody and Christopher Stone introduced the innovation for quality management in IS interpreting. The prerequisites for application are evidence and “letters of support from IS accredited interpreters and national or international Deaf organisations, 150 days of international Sign interpreting work, 5 years conference experience at national level in spoken languages, 3 years experience of IS interpreting at international events, IS and another national signed language and another spoken/written language, video testing with panel of international raters . . . , rubric guides panel of 7 people . . . ” Q&A: Jemina Napier spilled the beans saying the vast majority of already accredited IS interpreters are white males. People of Color and women should be preferred in the process. Simone Scholl and Christian Rathmann added Deaf interpreters to the list. The response was that they are working on an accreditation process for Deaf, non-English writing Interpreters who would be allowed to bring their English-NSL feeders with them. Christian Rathmann stressed the fact that IS is a treasure belonging to the Deaf community. Thinking about the discussion in the previous talk, asking whether the use of IS is a menace to National Sign Languages, Rathmanns statement is something that we all should brood on just a little while longer. I see this discourse about IS-use as a colonial practice within the Deaf community as marked by internalised colonialism: Its not IS itself which is colonial, its the way we use it. These two things must be conceptually separated. To objectify IS and IS-interpreting itself as the evil silences the actual colonial practice that has always been part our our professional practice. I don’t want another Deaf scapegoat. I want to reflect on this very colonial practice we perform every day.